Stressing About Baby Names

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about parents stressing over what to name their baby. The article discusses parents-to-be hiring numerologists and consultants to help them choose a name, and talks about naming a baby as an act of marketing and branding. Thus you have an ad exec and author of eight books on baby names saying, “We live in a marketing-oriented society…. People who understand branding know that when you pick the right name, you’re giving your child a head start.” The best part of the article by far is about how two people who work in marketing approached the problem.

As one of the founders of Catchword, a corporate naming firm with offices in New York and Oakland, Calif., Burt Alper says he and his wife, Jennifer, who also works in marketing, felt “tons of pressure” to come up with something grabby.

Although Mr. Alper typically gives clients a list of 2,000 names to mull over, he says he kept the list of baby names to 500, for simplicity.

I understand the anxiety. Misty and I spent some time debating what to call our two children. But, really, people, settle down. There are too many stressors when dealing with pregnancy to add avoidable ones. There are a couple of rules to remember. One: whatever you name your kid, other children will make fun of them. Two: the history or meaning of the name won’t change how others react to your child. When someone meets young Chloe, they won’t think, “Huh, that name is derived from the Greek and has verdant connotations,” or, “Oh, she’s named for her great-aunt Chloe.” They’ll think, “I knew a Chloe once, in college. I hated her.” And there’s nothing you can do about it.

So relax. Pick a short list of names. Think them over. Your child will grow into whatever name you give them, until it seems perfectly right and natural. Oh, and run your names through this interactive name explorer that shows how popular names are in the US based on Social Security data. Not because it’ll necessarily help you, but because the explorer is cool to play with.

5 thoughts on “Stressing About Baby Names

  1. One could always do what the parents of an acquaintance did: delay naming the child until the child is old enough to pick a name. Makes for another whole set of interesting issues. Or one could do what a different acquaintance did: go to court and change the name once reaching maturity. OR, follow the lead of yet another friend who used going off to college as a chance to change which name to give/answer to (as a variant, a former student just picked a name she liked and started using it). Yes, there is much craziness associated with naming!

  2. Hey Stephen,
    Having taught kindergarten, I learned that I should name my children names that would be easy to spell and write. Will and Luke.
    I taught a little girl named Chardonnay and that’s when I said to myself 4 letters or less!

  3. Thinking more about this whole thing, it’s not having trouble choosing that’s bothering me. I thought the woman in the article who did a tournament bracket for her kid’s name was brilliant. What I’m bothered by is the overriding weight placed on the name, as if that more than anything else will determine your kid’s trajectory through life, and that there is an objective way of judging what name is best.

  4. These are the likely same people trying to get their kids into college-prep nursery schools. I want to thump them.

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